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How to Find Property Lines in the Woods

By Danielle Smyth - Updated March 06, 2019
Identifying Property Lines in the Woods

Having well-defined property boundary lines is imperative if you plan to sell, build on or divide your property. For many lots, the process is easy, due to open space and the ability to clearly see property line markers.

When your lot has boundaries in a heavily wooded area, however, finding these markers and defining your property lines can be a daunting task. For this reason, many people who need to define property lines in a wooded lot hire professional surveyors to do the job.

Finding Property Lines for Free

If you do not want to hire a professional surveyor, it is possible to find your property lines yourself. This is true even if the original survey pins and landmarks are no longer visible. The first step is to contact your local assessor’s office. If you can find the name of the developer who built on your lot, or if you know that neighboring properties had recent surveys done, you can use that information to help inform you of your property lines.

If surveys have been done on surrounding properties, those landmarks or pins could still be in place and can help guide you in finding your property boundaries. This information is publicly available from your local assessor’s office. When you contact them, they should be able to provide the information from the last time your property was surveyed and by whom.

If you visit your assessor’s office in person, you may be able to view all local property maps for free. Many offices charge a small fee to make you a copy of the maps to take home. While these maps are unlikely to completely define your property, they are an excellent place to begin figuring out guidelines.

Surveying Your Own Property

Once you have a map on hand to guide you, it should be easier to locate the marker locations for your property. If you can locate any monuments, landmarks or other markers, they should be helpful in triangulating your location. Markers can be brass discs, metal tags on concrete, iron pipes, old fence lines or short iron pipes.

If you can locate these markers using your map, then the work will be done and you have mapped out your property lines. To know what kind of property markers to look for, you should first find some that are clear and not located in the wooded part of your lot. If you can find one property point, begin your measurements from there. To mark your property line, you can use a line of flags, rope or anything else that can form a clean, straight line.

If the wooded part of your property is too thick to line with rope or flags, a laser pointer or other straight-line tool can be invaluable while looking for your property lines. Sitting the laser on a high surface and using a white or light-colored marker to point it at will help you determine if your property line is straight or not. Unfortunately, many wooded lots are not defined in straight lines and thus can be difficult to track.

Before you go about cleaning out brush or removing trees from your lot, it is a good idea to inform your neighbors that you are tracing out your property lines. This way, they will be aware that you will be out there and they may have information to help you with your project. If you aren’t certain whether the brush you plan to clear is on your lot, you should seek help before proceeding.

How to Find Property Lines

Also known as boundary monuments, property markers vary based upon survey company, state and date that the property boundaries were surveyed. Typically, survey pins are metal and are placed at every corner of your property. These pins will handle every angle of your property, so if there are odd lines or non-straight boundaries, they can still be marked with boundary monuments.

For many types of structures, including fences, additions and sheds, boundary pins are required when you need to obtain a permit to build on your property. It is also important to have well-defined and agreed-upon markers to avoid any legal disputes between neighbors. Before beginning to dig or look for property markers, you should contact your local utility companies. This way, you will know that you will be safe from nicking any important lines on your property.

Property markers are usually around 14 1/2 feet from the curb, if you have one. You can use a metal detector to locate any buried markers. Some have colored caps and numbers to notate where they are in relation to your property.

What Are Survey Stakes?

Survey stakes are not regulated by a federal body and thus can look very different depending on the type of survey done and even the company that did the survey. Some stakes are wooden, some are embedded into the ground, and others have colored flags. If you are unsure, contact the company that did the original survey of your property to see if someone knows what kind of markers you should be looking for.

If you are looking for the original survey stakes, they typically stick out of the ground and are 6 inches long, 1/2 inch thick and likely were originally painted yellow. Once you find a survey stake, make sure that you leave a marker of some kind so you can find it again. In addition, this will ensure that you know later that you already found that particular marker.

When you purchased your property, land surveyors should have defined your property boundaries. Contact that company if possible and ask for an example of the pins used. Some of these companies even will have a copy of the survey for your records. If the stakes are metal, you can use a metal detector to find them and the original survey as a guide.

Where Does My Property End?

It is extremely important to know where your property lines end to avoid any issues of encroachment or disputes between your neighbors. Never assume that natural boundaries or fences are true markers of property lines. The only true markers of your property will be the surveyor stakes that have been left when the property was last surveyed. Your deed is a good place to check for your property lines. Following the description in the deed, you may be able to locate landmarks, and from those landmarks, find the surveyor stakes.

An easy way to get your property line details is from the official website for the assessor’s office in your area. Many times, this information is publicly available and easy to download, print or share. However, it is important to remember that mistakes can be made and you won’t truly know where your property lines end unless you can locate the surveyor stakes. If you are unsure after doing the work yourself to find the stakes, contact a professional surveying team.

About the Author

Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. Her experience includes years of work in the insurance, workers compensation, disability, and background investigation fields. In addition to being the content writer and social media manager for Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, she has written on legal topics for a number of other clients. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing legal articles and blogs for clients in related industries.

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